And the Beet Goes On

This week we’re continuing an annual tradition that I’m fond of, our local food recipe competition. Picking one extra special ingredient, we ask the community to submit their favorite recipes based on that theme. It’s like Iron Chef*, but without all the pressure or the video cameras (actually, it’s not really like Iron Chef at all). This year’s special ingredient is… beets!

So what makes our little beet recipe competition so special? Could it be the abundance of potential puns? You really can’t beet good wordplay, but to spare you, I’ll beet around the bush and move on to the root of my story. But first, how about a little musical accompaniment?


Could it be that the culinary creativity from competition participants inspires us? Last year’s sweet potato theme brought in dozens of traditional and non-traditional uses for those lovely golden starches, and we’re already seeing lots of creative entries this year. We love getting new ideas for common ingredients like the humble beet, especially since beets are one of the few local items that we still have on our shelves come February. Gathering them together, your ideas remind us that with a little pondering, it’s not that hard to incorporate local foods into your cooking routine all year long. Who can beet that?

Okay, but why am I really so fond of this recipe contest? It’s the stories. Food is something that we all have a special relationship with. We witness this first hand at each of our cooking classes, whether hearing the journeys of our Mosaic of Flavors class instructors, or sharing in the making of a traditional holiday treat with baker Heike Meyer or Chef Tony. Growing, cooking, and eating are all rhythms that shape our lives to one extent or another, so it’s inevitable that interesting stories bubble up when you bring up the topic of food.

I’ll share with you a simple example. My father loved pickled beets. Each year around the holidays, his bookkeeper would send him home with a case of jars filled with delicately brined rubies that she had grown in her garden that season. My father would walk into our house with that box completely giddy (he was a jovial man, but giddiness wasn’t his typical mannerism). My brother and I were always perplexed when he opened the box, and instead of a shiny new toy or something equally exciting to kids, he pulled out what seemed like simple pantry stuffers. The most fun a couple of boys would have with pickled beets was to push them around our plates and decorate our mashed potato sculptures with their red juices (I’m not ashamed to admit that I played with my food)! It took me a while for my palate to grow up and for me to realize why my father was so fond of them. His mother had made pickled beets and had passed on a few years prior, so his friend’s gift was a thoughtful nod to one of his favorite memories of her. Those jars meant a lot to him, and rightly so.

What’s your beet story? Tell us about it and a beet recipe that you love. The We ♥ Local Beets Recipe Competition goes until Sunday, February 16. Enter your recipe here and you’ll have a chance to win a $100 gift card to the Co-op and 5 pounds of local beets!

And now, without further ado, one final pun: The potato peeled and the banana split, but the beet goes on.


* Actually, if you really want to see something akin to Iron Chef, don’t miss the Junior Iron Chef Vermont competition coming up on March 22. I’m in awe of the talent those kids bring.